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by Dr. Michael S. Brown
June 4, 2000

Americans breathed a sigh of relief this week as our national gun rights debate took a break from the overheated rhetoric of recent months. Much needed comic relief was provided by Rosie O'Donnell. The gun-hating talk show host admitted that she is protected by bodyguards armed with guns.

Unfortunately, things are not going as well for our Canadian cousins. A poorly crafted and mean spirited law called the Firearms Act (C-68) was forced through Parliament in 1994 by the ruling Liberal Party. In an ugly example of cultural warfare, the Liberals used falsified statistics to convince members of Parliament that Canada was suffering from an epidemic of gun violence. The result was a strict new law with Draconian penalties on gun owners.

The law passed in spite of the Justice Minister's inability to show that Canada's previous sixty years of handgun registration had prevented any crimes.

The law has two major parts, which are very similar to proposals by the American anti-gun lobby. The first phase requires all gun owners to obtain a license. They must comply by the end of this year or face up to ten years in prison. The second phase is the registration of all firearms, which must be complete by January, 2003. Again, the penalty for violations is up to ten years in prison.

As a final insult to honest citizens, the type of handguns most suitable for self defense are banned outright by C-68. Confiscation of these guns from law abiding owners will be easy due to the existing registration system, but criminals have never registered their guns and will not be affected. Apparently, Canadian criminals have a more effective lobby than the gun owners.

The Liberal sponsors of the law estimated start-up costs for the new system would be under 85 million dollars. So far, it has consumed over 300 million and massive annual operating costs are being predicted. Over 1,400 government workers have been assigned to the project. Despite this commitment of resources, the system is plagued by long delays and error rates as high as 90% have been reported by outside analysts.

Even if Canadian gun owners were planning to cooperate, the size and complexity of the task would be overwhelming. The gun owners, however, are not cooperating. Only 10% have turned in the lengthy application forms and many have announced that they will never comply with such an unfair law.

The Law-abiding Unregistered Firearms Association ( is planning organized civil disobedience. This new organization has grown from nothing to 16,000 members since it was founded in November of 1998. Their plan is to wait until the first gun owner is charged with failing to obey the new law. Then, tens of thousands of gun owners will present themselves at RCMP stations across Canada and announce that they are in violation of C-68.

Perhaps the Liberal politicians will send them all off to prison, but harsh action would harm the warm fuzzy image the party wants to project. There is a good chance the whole licensing scheme will collapse as firearms cases clog the courts and cost the Liberals their majority in Parliament. This is not certain, as they are masters at generating public support.

One Clintonesque tactic takes advantage of the fact that many license applications are rejected due to errors. The Liberals claim this represents the number of "potential criminals" who have been denied access to firearms as a result of the wonderful new law. They are obviously borrowing this tactic from the U.S. administration which has made similar false claims for the Brady bill.

Another useful gambit takes advantage of any change in the crime rate. If crime decreases, the Liberals will say that this proves the effectiveness of gun control and ask for even stricter anti-gun laws. If crime increases, they can say that the current law is inadequate and will still have a reason to ask for stricter laws. They probably think they can't lose.

The Canadian Supreme Court may invalidate the law. If not, a moment of reckoning will occur sometime after January 1, 2001. Americans could learn a lot from this episode, but our media has historically ignored both Canadian affairs and anything that shows the failure of gun control. A priceless lesson is likely to be wasted.


Dr. Michael Brown is an optometrist who moderates an email list for discussion of gun issues in Washington state. He may be reached at: or through his web site at:  Several of Dr. Brown's articles are also hosted on this web site, by clicking here.

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America needs fewer laws, not more prisons. JAMES BOVARD

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